Monday, December 15, 2008

Unanswered Prayer and the Meaning of Christmas

The birth of Jesus ben Joseph haunted those who knew his true identity. The first in a series of six meditations.


Who is more anxious to see our most heartfelt prayers answered? You and me? Or God?   

In the very last paragraph of the Old Testament, the Lord declared: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6).

Four hundred years later, it’s time for that prophecy to be fulfilled. By lot, a priest named Zechariah, a revered relative of the virgin Mary, is chosen to enter the sanctuary and burn incense to the Lord. He’s probably waited his entire adult life for the privilege of approaching God’s presence to pray. What’s foremost on his mind? The deep yearning he and his wife, Elizabeth, have for her to bear a son.

Of course, Zechariah isn’t expecting God to answer him audibly. But answer him he does by sending the angel Gabriel—the same angel who had explained part of the Lord’s timetable to the prophet Daniel six hundred years earlier. Gabriel announces to Zechariah that his wife indeed will have a son who “will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).

Even though he was a righteous and godly priest, Zechariah’s first response is one of unbelief. Like Zechariah, you and I may find it hard to believe that God will ever answer some of our most important prayer requests.

Have you felt like Zechariah yet this Advent season?

Then again, imagine how Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, must have felt a few months later when his young relative, Mary, came for a surprise visit.

God hasn’t finished writing His story yet…in your life or mine.

Still, it’s so hard to believe, isn’t it?

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